Finding words can often be the hardest part of life. And putting words to your deepest feelings in incredibly powerful. A huge focus of my work with the kids this summer is helping them find words. I want to give them examples when I see them struggling and then have them articulate them back to me. Sometimes I need someone to do the same for me. That can come in different forms, friends, family, professionals, but the most powerful place I find words when they don’t come for me is in art.
Carrie & Lowell has been an incredibly important album for me since I first heard the single “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.” I had no idea what it was about, but I could feel the heaviness, and the Christian imagery resonated deeply with me. The first time I listened to it straight though, I had to listen to it again. I listened to it daily for weeks, I learned every word and I cried and cried and cried.
There is a hurt deep at the core of who I am. A loss that had defined me since I was 4 years old. The vast majority of my life I’ve lived without my Father. He died in a horrible accident when I was not quite four and half. He was in his late 20s.
I spent my childhood feeling a profound loss and also feeling like I was never allowed to speak of that loss. I had to keep it deep within myself. I was often angry, but I kept it under wraps as best I could expressing it though various sports. You can throw a ball hard or kick your foot though a board and people don’t get too upset. I was never good at finding the words to tell anyone how I really felt. I still kind of suck at it, but I’m getting better. I have a few safe people now, and I write. I write here, and in other more personal places.
But Carrie & Lowell reached something I never was able to reach in myself with lines like
For my prayer has always been love
What did I do to deserve this?
Do I care if I despise this? Nothing else matters, I know
In a veil of great disguises; how do I live with your ghost?
How do I live with your ghost. Thats always been the struggle.
And then there is
Should I tear my eyes out now, before I see too much?
Should I tear my arms out now, I wanna feel your touch
Which so captures the deep visceral physical feeling of loss. To feel a loved person’s touch again. Nothing can actually communicate that feeling. But Sufjan does a damn good job.
Those past two lines are from the track “The only Thing” which resonates most deeply with me of any track on the album. I’ve struggled with feeling this loss so intensely I want to hurt myself. I’ve imagined how easy it would be to escape it all from driving off a bridge or into a tree. Then I realize I would only be passing on this same intense pain to the people who love me that dearly, and there are at least a few. I would never wish this pain on anyone, so I continue to find the best ways I can to cope, I search for healthier ways to deal with my struggles. This album provided one I didn’t know existed. Sufjan’s mourning of the loss of his mother and his reminiscing of his childhood helps me to explore those own intense feelings in myself.
I forgive you, mother, I can hear you
And I long to be near you
But every road leads to an end
Yes every road leads to an end
Your apparition passes through me in the willows
Five red hens – you’ll never see us again
You’ll never see us again